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Research project aims to make the blockchain faster and more sustainable

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At the Technical University of Munich (TUM), an interdisciplinary research team of experts from the fields of informatics, electrical engineering and management sciences is working to make blockchain technology significantly faster and ready for entirely new applications. is. In this interview, Professor Georg Carle describes his ACE SUPPRA project.

the term Describes several ways to create a distributed database. Information is incrementally added to this database in units called blocks. For example, in cryptocurrencies, it contains information about transactions. The list cannot be changed. The correctness of the information in the new block is not verified by a central unit that other units must rely on.

Instead, a distributed consensus mechanism between computers that do not need to trust each other determines what information is entered into blocks and which participating units can add blocks. The enormous energy costs incurred by the cryptocurrency Bitcoin are related to its proof-of-work consensus mechanism. Modern blockchain processes use consensus methods that require much less energy.

Prof. Carl, ACE SUPPRA, a new large-scale research project on blockchain is launched at TUM. what do you want to achieve?

In short, we want blockchain technology to be faster, more robust, and more sustainable. Already conducting intensive research in this area, he has assembled an interdisciplinary team from his five Research Chairs at TUM. Blockchain technology is primarily known through cryptocurrencies. But really, it’s a good tool for different tasks. Our goal is to remove the weaknesses of this tool and enable more blockchain applications.

What are the drawbacks of current blockchain technology?

Lack of speed, for example. Many popular blockchain systems, including Bitcoin, work on probabilistic consensus mechanisms. It takes a considerable amount of time for a block to become part of a valid blockchain. For cryptocurrencies, this means that once a block is generated (which takes an average of 10 minutes for Bitcoin), the transaction is not finalized until consensus is reached that the block is actually part of a valid blockchain. To do. This can take up to an hour.

does it take that long?

Finality in just a few seconds is achievable with modern blockchains. This means that it takes mere seconds to reach consensus on a new block and the number of transactions it validates. But for some applications even that is not enough. High-frequency trading on stock exchanges requires significant speedups.The same applies for use with interactive applications in a cyber-physical system.

For example, could blockchain technology be used in networked cars?

With real-time capabilities, yes. That’s the speed we’re working on in our project. For example, turning various components of a car into actors in a blockchain network could make an accurate and authoritative statement about which component failed and when in the event of a breakdown. This idea can be taken further and applied to multiple cars networked together to record tamper-proof evidence of events leading up to an accident using data from various sensors.

What are your goals in the ACE SUPPRA project?

We take an interdisciplinary approach. Blockchain technology is complex and there are countless points to play around with. This includes the consensus algorithm itself, but also the underlying mechanisms of communication between the computers involved. For example, Andreas Herkersdorf, Chairman of Integrated Systems, and his team plan to conduct research on hardware acceleration of certain blockchain mechanisms on coprocessors that can achieve the required speeds and have built-in security mechanisms. .

And then combine it with the actual blockchain code?

exactly. My workgroup brings together advances in hardware acceleration and advances in consensus protocols. A key priority is to make privacy protection an integral part of the system and demonstrate this in reproducible experiments.

Besides speed, what aspects of blockchain do you plan to work on?

We are very interested in how people can interact with blockchain. There are many possibilities in this area as well. Professor of Software and Systems Engineering Alexander Pretschner is working on a very interesting feature of blockchain: smart his contracts. He wants these automated “contracts” to be verifiably reliable and usable in complex applications. Florian Matthes, Chair of Software Engineering for Business Information Systems, explores the use of blockchain in specific application cases. Among other things, he is interested in how to create the right incentives for collaboration on blockchains and where they can be abused. Her Isabell Welpe, Professor of Strategy and Organization at the TUM School of Management, studies related aspects. Blockchain and how to incorporate such rules into your code.


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